The best thing about a collection like this is that it offers an introduction to new artists. Since that’s what we’re into around here, this is a great opportunity to find a hidden gem. Obviously I can’t write on every track on the album, so I’ll hit a few highlights. If you’re a fan of folk music, though, check out the whole album. There’s something here for all of us.
Justin Cross’s “Spring” is a bright and beautiful song. It’s got just enough rhythm to get the listener head bobbing, but not completely up and dancing. “I believe in resurrection from this place… I believe that the stone can roll away.” I’m going to go ahead and assume this song about the Spring is also about Jesus. Spring, indeed, will come to bloom. There’s a real hope to this song and that really works nicely.
Wilder Adkins’ “Feeling Small” is a quintessential folk song. Adkins’ voice just sounds like a folk singer’s voice. He’s got that Dylan-esque hilt at the end of his phrasing. The layered strings and the shaker for rhythm create an almost Bohemian vibe to the song. And while you can understand every lyric he sings, I’m not sure anyone can figure out exactly what it means. How very, very folk.
“Lowlands” by The Wilde is a soft, sensitive song. The guitar at the beginning is extremely soothing. The lead singer’s voice is excellent. It’s a love song, but it seems to be written out of depressive state. There’s something distinctly “winter” about this song. He makes mention of the winter wind, but really it just has an “around the fire” feeling to it. “Let that winter wind pick me up to wrap my arms around you again.” Pretty. Romantic.
Aaron Lee Martin’s “Moriah” is a remarkable acoustic song. The phrasing makes the song. This is a classic storyteller’s song. It’s a terribly tragic song about a man’s struggle with his parents’ divorce, then lost love in his own life. Lyrically this is a gut wrenching song. His repetitive “they are blessings and curses” is clearly written and sung out of deep pain. It’s the kind of recording that you can’t just throw on in the background. Wrestling with this man’s emotion is the purpose of the song, with gorgeous biblical imagery at the end. So good.
Threadbare, Brother’s song “Back on the Ground” is a wonderful hopeful song about redemption. The lead singer’s voice is extremely familiar and endearing. It makes for an enjoyable and overall hopeful song. It helps to recover the album from the emotionally heavy offering by Martin that precedes it.
Overall the album is a bright contribution to folk music in the early 21st century. It is not the kind of folk that fits with The Lumineers or the more popular “arena folk” varieties. Instead it’s a softer, even solo folk, that reflects the roots of the genre. For that I’m extremely grateful to have discovered the group. While Martin’s tragic song is the best in terms of heavy lyrics, the entire album is appreciated for its complexities in wrestling musically and lyrically.